Most of us accept that vacationing is inevitably going to be expensive -- but is that the right attitude? Having to pay for expensive plane tickets, hotel and food obviously requires money. However, how much you end up spending is up to you and how well you plan. For instance, booking ahead and being flexible with your travel dates and times can save you up to hundreds of dollars.
If you're looking for summer costs that can be reduced, here are seven to start with:
1. Travel Rates
Nowadays, checking discount comparison websites in order to conduct price research is common. However, checking directly with airline sites is a practice that is less talked about, despite the very real possibility that doing so may get travelers more competitive rates.
Airline websites often have rates that aren't published on shopping sites, and also don't charge the transaction fees that comparisons sites do.
Also, here are these facts:
- According to FareCompare.com, the cheapest days to fly domestically are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and the days to avoid are Friday and Sunday.
- The cheapest time to purchase tickets on a Tuesday at 3 pm Eastern time.
- The Airlines Reporting Corporation has found that passengers pay almost 6 percent below the average if they book six weeks in advance of their flight. Data compiled from every U.S. travel agency from the last four years has shown that most people booked the cheapest tickets 42 days prior to their flights.
2. Checking bags
Travel lightly if you want to save on money and hassle. With airlines typically charging $25 and up for checked bags, paying for the convenience of having a large selection of your favorite items with you can quickly become costly.
If you need to bring a lot with you, shipping your things may be even cheaper than taking them with you on the place. If that isn't the case, you can always check this worldwide baggage fee chart from FareCompare.com in order to determine the airline that will let you get the most out of your money.
If you have a credit card, you have a lot of perks you may not have realized. One of them is insurance; many credit cards commonly offer cardholders free protection against rental card damage, trip cancellation coverage, and protection from travel delays, as well as emergency travel assistance. Given that you've checked with your card issuer first, you could save significantly on costs that are already covered.
Accommodations are often one of the costliest travel expenses, and today there are many options available for vacationers looking to save without significantly compromising their comfort and experience. For instance, websites like HomeAway.com and Airbnb.com advertise a huge array of available house and apartment rentals. You can choose a rental that fits both your budget and your expectations, and because most of these homes rent by the week, the collective price is lower than paying per night at a hotel.
If you're less interested in leisure and nightlife and are willing to provide labor in a potentially rural area in exchange for the opportunity to live fee-free, WWOOF could be for you. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms U.S.A. programs provide a mutually beneficial relationship for (typically) farmers who could use an extra set of hands helping out their business, and travelers who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work in order to explore new places. In exchange for labor, Wwoofers are given free room and board (which includes food).
Finally, hotels can be expensive, but if you're set at one, don't hesitate to bargain the cost. Now more than ever, it's acceptable to do so within reason.
5. Dining and entertainment
Don't leave without doing your due research! Do a quick online search and check the local tourism bureau website for coupons and discounts at restaurants and tourist attractions. Also be sure to hunt for brochures and pamphlets that offer coupons once you arrive to your destination.
6. Smartphone usage
To use your smartphone to send and receive emails, text messages, and calls, buying a data roaming package or a voice roaming package for your trip (which lasts a minimum of one month) allows you to keep and use your existing cell phone number while abroad.
Verizon claims that 110 megabytes allows users to send and receive 50 emails, look at 5 websites, and use maps apps for 15 minutes daily for a month. Many U.S. carriers have their own plans, and AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon all have their own calculators to help you figure out how much data you will realistically need while overseas.
Wi-Fi: When Wi-Fi is available, the Skype app is useful, and allows you to make unlimited calls to the "Unlimited World" for $13.99 per month (includes U.S., U.K. and over 60 other countries).
To round out your smartphone usage knowledge, here are three precautionary tips:
- When overseas, be sure to turn the "push" data option on your smartphone off, or else your phone will continually be checking for new emails and your data will be eaten away at.
- If you buy a plan for 100 megabytes, say, for $25, once you hit the next megabyte over (101), you will be charged another $25, so keep track of your usage because your carrier won't cut you off when your limit has run out.
- Finally, call customer service or visit your carrier's online website once you get home and want to end the package (or you will keep being charged).
7. ATM fees
Foreign ATMs typically charge $5 per withdrawal. However, if your bank is within the Global ATM Alliance, made up of several major international banks, you can use your ATM card or debit card at another bank within Alliance with no international ATM fees. Bank of America and Barclays are well-known members of the alliance, and though not in the alliance, Charles Schwab cardholders withdraw for free worldwide. According to our foreign ATM fee comparison chart, Citibank is free internationally, within certain parameters.
If you're looking for ways to offset the sting of forking over money on your prized week off from work, be diligent in conducting your research, and make sure to cut costs where you can. With some resourcefulness, you can recoup the vacation costs you're overpaying for before you go on that trip, and enjoy your upcoming adventure.